Figuring out my ministry and calling in life has been a struggle that sometimes left me discouraged and frustrated. I can’t imagine how hard it would have been if there were a bunch of people saying, “God can’t use you in the ways you feel led. You can only serve in a few select areas.”
My reply would be, “So you’re saying that God made me a second-class citizen in his Kingdom?”
What I imagine for myself is what many women face in the real world of Christianity. I used to think that women could not teach men, hold authority over men, or even do all that much on Sunday morning. Then something shocking happened.
While attending Taylor University, a woman spoke about doing something I’d been taught women should never do: teach men.
During missions week, Marilyn Laszlo spoke about her missions work in Papua New Guinea. She ministered among an entire tribe as the only missionary. So far as I could tell, she was free to “teach” men during our meetings at Taylor. Even more eye-opening, she was the only missionary teaching the men in her village.
Some speak of God making special exceptions, calling in the JV female team when the males aren’t around—A League of Their Own for the church. The shakiness of this argument began to wear on me during missions week. Why would God make an exception if it was an absolute standard in scripture? Why were churches OK with women going to teach men in the jungle but not in the sanctuary on Sunday morning between 9 and 12 am? Should a solitary female missionary turn over authority to the men in her village when they reach a certain point of spiritual maturity?
Better yet, if women aren’t supposed to teach or hold authority over men, where do we draw the line for websites, books, and conferences? What if a female speaker at a conference begins to convict a man in attendance? Is that not a form of authority?
I dedicated myself to studying this issue. I learned about the context of the Old and New Testaments. I learned about women such as Deborah and Huldah—women God chose to lead and to teach. I learned about the Greek culture of the New Testament, the female oracles, and the rowdy female prophets that would have populated cities such as Ephesus and Corinth. I began to realize that we’re forced to either choose God’s standards for female leaders or Paul’s standards—making one or the other culturally situated.
For me, the issue of women in ministry is settled. I have no doubt that women were not only created fully in God’s image, but that women can serve in the same positions as men. Some Christians disagree with me on that one. As far as I’m concerned, I’m not interested in having this debate on my blog. There are plenty of other places on the internet to duke this out. I want to contribute something different to the issue of women in ministry: stories.
Stories That Open Eyes
When I learned about the incredible ways God used Marilyn Laszlo, I began to question my beliefs about women. God was performing miracles through this woman. Could I have been wrong? After years of studying scripture, I changed my position.
Stories about God’s work today can stretch us, force us to dig deeper into scripture, and to pursue different courses for our lives. Rather than debate theology, I want to create a place where women can tell their own stories of pursuing God’s call into ministry. I want every woman who has been told, “God can’t use you…” to read stories about women who have been affirmed by God.
Starting on January 13th, I’m launching a new series of guest posts that will go up every Friday called the Women in Ministry Series. I’ve asked some of the most talented women I know to share their stories of being called into ministry or of a woman who ministered to them. We’re going to create a new conversation about what God is doing in and through women, rather than getting lost in the debate about what women can and cannot do.
A Series That Builds Up Women
I think we’ve all seen threads of comments on blogs where an otherwise encouraging discussion is sidetracked by a peripheral debate. While I encourage readers of all perspective to check out this series, I want to make it clear that our discussions in the comments will not include debates about whether or not women can teach, lead, or speak in church—that women can teach or lead will be assumed. The goal here is to encourage women who have been told “no” for far too long, and therefore I want to create a safe and encouraging environment.
There are plenty of other bloggers out there who are eager to host debates on this topic or to advance a perspective counter to my own. It’s not like I’m suppressing anyone. Our goal is to simply create a different kind of conversation at this blog, and in order to do that on the internet, we need some rules.
For those who dislike these parameters, I have two words of encouragement. For starters, this is a great opportunity to practice the Christian virtue of patience. Secondly, if you feel like your voice has been silenced, then you are in a perfect position to empathize with the thousands upon thousands of women who have felt the same way for hundreds of years.
How We’ll Begin the Series
The Women in Ministry Series begins on January 13th with a guest post by Sarah Styles Bessey of Emergingmummy.com. She’ll be followed by Jamie Wright of Jamietheveryworstmissionary.com. After them, I’ll share a preview for the next writer each week.
If you are a woman with a story to tell, visit the project’s home page for submission guidelines. Stay tuned for the first post on January 13th. You can subscribe via the RSS feed or through the e-mail notification form at the top.
I pray that many will be encouraged by this new series. Thanks for reading!